The space in the morning is such an important thing to have. It used to be the case that I could just get up and write for half an hour, and that set me up for the day. These days it seems more complex. And for a while I’ve understood those people who say that they need at least a week of free time get into their writing. I’ve been finishing other things off and allowing bits and pieces of ‘admin work’ to get in the way.
However, a few days ago I managed to get something back. There has to be one main project – a book, a dissertation, an article, or whatever. You have to keep it in your mind the whole time, so that you are thinking about it and working on it in between and even at the same time as all the other things you are doing. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting and staring at the screen with it. In fact, the whole point is not to do that.
It was actually going to be a busy Monday morning. I had a PhD review meeting at 9.00, and then an appraisal meeting with my line manager. The second meeting was going to be stressful; so it wasn’t an easy prospect. Nevertheless, between perhaps six thirty and seven fifteen I got a lot done. I searched for something in my emails which at first seemed like distraction, but found it. Then I went to the chapter of the book I am writing, which I had been staring at in the screen in previous days and not getting anywhere. Then the idea came and I was able to think of something I hadn’t before and then move a heading, change a few sentences, cut and paste something – suddenly there was amazing clarity. I even realised that searching for the email had helped with that.
I haven’t yet been back to it on the screen; and it’s Thursday. But it’s been in my head ever since. It was certainly between the lines of what I said to the PhD student in the review meeting. It was there in the review of a journal article I had to write. It was there in some of the questions I asked and the sense that I made of the replies in the two gruelling days of interviewing PhD candidates. It was even there in getting through the appraisal meeting, and also in internal dialogues with TV dramas that I’ve watched. It was certainly there in what I said to my PhD student in a supervision meeting just now. That’s why it’s so important to meet with my students regularly. They give me so many ideas.
Well, now I’m writing this instead of getting back to the text; but writing this is definitely on the way to getting back to it. And, of course, sitting in the café and watching what’s going on is crucial material.
The whole point is that when I get back to it on the screen just a little time will make a lot of difference. But of course, it will take some determination to do that.